How to Say ‘Sorry I’m Late’ in Japanese Depending on Your Situation

Amélie Geeraert
Kokoro Media
Published in
3 min readDec 15, 2023

--

Photo by Hakan Nural on Unsplash

It is a well-known fact that being late is frowned upon in Japanese culture. Being late when you meet friends will not hurt your friendships badly as long as you apologize and don’t try to make up excuses. Your Japanese friends might very well be the ones who are late. But in business culture, it’s a no-go, so you should be on time for your appointments with your Japanese counterparts. However, trouble sometimes happens, and being late is unavoidable. Here is what to say in such situations.

1. How to Say ‘Sorry I’m Late’ in Japanese

  • Sumimasen, osokunarimashita. (すみません、遅くなりました。) I’m sorry for being late.
  • Omataseshite moshiwake gozaimasen. (お待たせして申し訳ございません。) I am deeply sorry to have kept you waiting.

The first one is polite, and the second one is very formal. Merely explaining why you are late usually will not earn points with your Japanese counterparts. One of the most common ways to apologize in Japanese is “moshiwake arimasen”, which means “I have no excuse.” The most important is to apologize as sincerely as possible before explaining anything else.

2. How to Say ‘I Will Be 10 Minutes Late’ in Japanese

  • Okuremasu (遅れます) I’m going to be late.
  • Okureso desu (遅れそうです ) I may be late

If you notice you will be late or may be late, it is imperative to phone or message your Japanese counterpart and warn them in advance. In that case, first apologize, then announce how late you will likely arrive.

Close-up of a watch on someone’s arm

Here are a few ways to apologize and tell about your estimated time of arrival:

  • Sumimasen, juppun okuremasu. (すみません、十分遅れます。) Sorry, I will be 10 minutes late.
  • Sumimasen, sukoshi okureso desu. (すみません、少し遅れそうです。) Sorry, I may be a little late.
  • Sumimasen, ato juppun de tsukimasu. (すみません、後十分で着きます。) Sorry, I will arrive in 10 minutes.
  • Sumimasen, sugu ni tsukimasu. (すみません、すぐに着きます。) Sorry, I will…

--

--

Amélie Geeraert
Kokoro Media

Living in Japan since 2011. I love interviewing inspiring people.